After 15 weeks of play, the AFC's playoff picture is still a complete mess, with the only certainty being the Colts will have home field advantage.
Even with San Diego's impressive victory, the Chargers still haven't locked up the two seed, as the Pats have a slim chance at it.
Then there are the wild card berths. There are still eight teams fighting for the final two spots in the AFC playoffs.
Indianapolis (14-0) def. Jacksonville (7-7), 35-31: Jacksonville fought incredibly hard, but the Colts were just too much. Peyton Manning led his team to a victory that severely wounds the Jags' playoff hopes. Manning was amazing once again, and with the events of the weekend, he has to be considered the favorite for the league MVP.
Dallas (9-5) def. New Orleans (13-1), 24-17: I have been all over Dallas all season, but I must admit this was one of the franchise's most impressive victories in years. Tony Romo continued his spectacular play, and the offense as a whole was clicking as it executed an excellent game plan.
I thought, along with everybody else, the 'Boys would collapse when the Saints went on their run in the fourth quarter. However, Romo orchestrated a very nice drive that Nick Folk screwed up, which led to this, but the defense—particularly the amazing DeMarcus Ware—eventually finished off the win.
For the Saints, there's not too much to worry about, but Dallas did whatever it wanted on offense, which has to be a concern.
New England (9-5) def. Buffalo (5-9), 17-10: Something is still wrong with the Pats. Tom Brady looked average again and the team let the Bills hang around for a long time. The time for the Pats to correct whatever ails them is becoming shorter and shorter.
Arizona (9-5) def. Detroit (2-12), 31-24: This was certainly closer than it should have been. Arizona played better than it did in its loss in San Francisco, but it was still the team's second-straight shaky performance against a team it should have beaten handily. Not a cause for concern yet, but another performance like this and it will be.
Tennessee (7-7) def. Miami (7-7), 27-24: The Titans just refuse to lose. After jumping out to a big lead, then watching it slip away, they got the game into overtime and found a way to win. Now, because of how things happened around the league, they are right in the middle of the playoff race.
This was also a big step back for the Dolphins, who would've been in complete control of the wild card race with a victory.
Cleveland (3-11) def. Kansas City (3-11), 41-34: Who would've thought this would be one of the games of the day? Josh Cribbs put the team on his back again with two long kickoff returns that gave him the record for the most kickoff returns for touchdowns in NFL history. This week he actually had help as Jerome Harrison ran for almost 300 yards, completely shredding KC's defense. Believe it or not, this was one of Cleveland's best wins in a year or two.
Houston (7-7) def. St. Louis (1-13), 16-13: Houston won, but this isn't the way it wants go into next week's elimination game with the Dolphins. Andre Johnson was the only Texan to do much of anything, outweighing what the banged up Steven Jackson was able to do.
Atlanta (7-7) def. New York Jets (7-7), 10-7: All the Jets had to do was keep the ball out of Mark Sanchez's hands. Instead, they did the opposite, and the end result was three interceptions and a loss. Nonetheless, lost opportunities killed the Jets. They got into Falcon territory five times and came away zero points. You have to try to be that bad.
Atlanta isn't going to the playoffs, but it showed a lot of heart, particularly on its final drive that produced the game-winning score.
Philadelphia (10-4) def. San Francisco (6-8), 27-13: San Fran got the deficit down to seven points in the second half, but it seemed like it didn't really matter. Philly did whatever it wanted on both sides of the ball, and it has now become the San Diego of the NFC. Nobody wants to see the Eagles in the playoffs.
Baltimore (8-6) def. Chicago (5-9), 31-7: Baltimore was one of the few teams in the wild card race to help itself when it dismantled the Bears. Jay Cutler threw three more picks, essentially handing the Ravens the victory. Now, the Ravens have the opportunity to eliminate the Steelers next week.
Oakland (5-9) def. Denver (8-6), 20-19: Like the Cowboys, I've been all over the Raiders and JaMarcus Russell all year. However, four of their five wins have come against Philly, Pittsburgh, Cincy, and Denver. That's pretty good for any team. Russell led his team down the field for the game-winning score that does make his otherwise dismal season seem a little better.
Was there a more demoralizing loss this week? Denver could have all but wrapped up a playoff spot and it now heads into Philly almost having to win. If they end up with nine wins, they may miss the playoffs.
San Diego (11-3) def. Cincinnati (9-5), 27-24: Cincinnati played very well in the wake of what happened in the days leading up to the game, but San Diego may be playing the best ball in the league. This win just about locks up a first-round bye, and guarantees at least one home game for the Chargers, and may lead them to Indianapolis in about a month.
Pittsburgh (7-7) def. Green Bay (9-5), 37-36: Mike Tomlin's horrible decision to onside kick the ball with a two-point lead almost ended Pittsburgh's season. In a move that was eerily similar to Bill Belichick's in Week 10, Tomlin openly admitted that he made the decision due to lack of confidence in the defense, which was justified, but it was still a horrible move.
However, Tomlin was bailed out by Ben Roethlisberger who played a great game that Pittsburgh fans may look back on as a turning point if the team gets into the playoffs.
This is not a crippling loss for the Pack, but they do have to figure out what went wrong on defense. Roethlisberger cut the secondary up all game long.
Tampa Bay (2-12) def. Seattle (5-9), 24-7: This was as pathetic as the Seahawks have looked in a long time. To add insult to injury, this loss all but guaranteed the Rams the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which means that for the next 12-15 years, the Seahawks will have to deal with Ndamukong Suh. Ouch.
The Vikes haven't looked consistently great in a little while, but they have time to clean that up before the playoffs.
New York Giants (8-6) def. Washington (4-9), 45-12: Coming into this game, I was loving how the 'Skins had been playing in recent weeks. Not so much anymore. The G-Men jumped out to a huge lead and never looked back, as they destroyed Washington to stay firmly in contention for a wild card spot.
Top 12 Teams (Last week's ranking)
- Indianapolis Colts (2): An undefeated regular season is now a realistic possibility. Super Bowl XLIV is the ultimate goal, but going undefeated would be great. Next week: vs. New York Jets (7-7)
- San Diego Chargers (3): In the playoffs, they have been a thorn in Indy's side for years. It's now looking more and more likely that this may be the AFC Championship Game. Next week: at Tennessee (7-7)
- New Orleans Saints (1): Unless you're the '72 Dolphins, your first loss has to come at some point. The Saints have to clean up defensive mistakes, though. Next week: vs. Tampa Bay (2-12)
- Philadelphia Eagles (5): Their remaining schedule is tough, but if they play like they've been playing, they'll go into the postseason as the most dangerous team in the NFC. Next week: vs. Denver (8-6)
- Minnesota Vikings (4): They're in a funk right now, but Jay Cutler will be across from them next week, so everything will be fine. Next week: at Chicago (5-9)
- Dallas Cowboys (10): This is a big jump, but they had a very impressive victory. Now, they must finish strong. Next week: at Washington (4-10)
- Arizona Cardinals (7): Not an impressive win, but a win is a win. Next week: vs. St. Louis (1-13)
- New England Patriots (8): Like the Cards, the win wasn't impressive, but it was still a win. Next week: vs. Jacksonville (7-7)
- Cincinnati Bengals (6): This is probably too far a drop, but I don't think they beat the Cards or the Pats on a neutral field. Next week: vs. Kansas City (3-11)
- Green Bay Packers (9): The offense looked great, but the defense didn't. They will still be a threat in the playoffs. Next week: vs. Seattle (5-9)
- Tennessee Titans (NR): The fact that they started off at 0-6 and now have a chance to make the playoffs is remarkable. Next week: vs. San Diego (11-3)
- Denver Broncos (11): This was a really bad week for them, but they still control their own destiny. Next week: at Philadelphia (10-4)
Team To Fall Out of the Top 12
Miami Dolphins: You cannot start out as slowly as they did with a playoff spot on the line. Because of the loss, they are in an elimination game next week against the Texans.
And with that, Week 15 is in the books. I'll probably get the picks in sometime between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday evening. Until then, stay warm and I hope everyone has a great Christmas.
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